Strasser Earns Spotlight in Freshman Year at Central Washington University
PITCHING: W.F. West Alum Frequents Circle for Wildcat Softball Team
By Matt Baide
After four years of dominating hitters at W.F. West, Lexie Strasser picked up right where she left off, being the ace pitcher for the Central Washington University Wildcats this past season.
Before arriving in Ellensburg, Strasser was helping lead the Bearcats to two state titles during her four years at W.F. West. He career with CWU began when she committed to CWU during her junior year, with Central Washington coach Mike Larabee helping her pitching mechanics.
“My mechanics were awful and he saw potential in me so he kind of helped me change them there and had my coaches reiterate it to me,” Strasser said. “When I got there, he wanted to change how I threw a couple pitches but not a whole lot, just trying to get me to throw harder and pick up my speed.”
After winning the state championship her senior year at W.F. West, Strasser played club ball during the summer before heading east over the mountains in September. There were a few things to get used to, such as the intensity of practices as well as only focusing on one sport in college.
“It was a little weird just because I do really miss basketball and I miss volleyball also but it kept you so busy that you didn’t have a lot of time to think about it,” Strasser said. “A lot more, we practice all day and then we have weights on top of that and meetings and it’s all very intense. You have to be very committed for everything.”
During fall ball, she got her first taste of collegiate softball and was able to shake off the nerves after a few games in the circle.
“It was probably during some of the fall games which I don’t think counted. It was against a couple CC’s and even then I was like, ‘I’m kind of nervous, I just hope I do well.’,” Strasser said. “It was good. Once you got the first couple games out of the way, for like practice or whatever, it just fell into place and got more comfortable with the team and more comfortable with the umpires and just everything and it all turned out well.”
Strasser put in a lot of time working on being a better pitcher and she was rewarded with a lot of time in the circle, making the most appearances of any pitcher on the team.
“I had hoped I would and I worked really hard to do that, so I was glad that my hard work paid off and I could show what I could do,” Strasser said.
Strasser appeared in 35 games and started 25 of those games. She pitched a total of 166 innings, going 18-10 with a 2.91 ERA, 77 strikeouts and held opponents to a .257 batting average.
Strasser said the biggest change was the hitters she faced in college.
“The biggest change is probably better hitters because you’re not in high school anymore,” Strasser said. “They can, like, anticipate what pitches you’re going to throw or know your speed on what your throwing … and not just guessing.”
The team was 31-16 this season, losing in the GNAC tournament to end the season.
Strasser didn’t do a lot of losing during her time at W.F. West, something she noted was not easy to deal with.
“I hate losing. I am the most competitive person ever,” Strasser said. “I hate losing and it drives me insane, but you’ve got to learn from it and you have to come back and work on what you saw that you did in the last game and make it better in the next game and forget about it and go win the other ones.”
She did get a taste of home when CWU traveled to Lacey to play St. Martin’s University, with a solid contingent of Bearcats coming to watch her throw.
“We had a lot of softball fans that were from W.F. West come up there and watch those games too,” Strasser said. “That was cool to see them and still be following my career.”
Being away from home wasn’t easy for Strasser at first, but she was able to get used to it after building relationships with her teammates.
“I missed my family. It was kind of weird at first, just because I’ve never lived out of home before,” Strasser said. “It was fun, you kind of get over being homesick and you have to play softball and focus.”
It helped that the team became her family, becoming good friends with teammates Bethany Balucan, McKenzie Behnke and Sydney Brown.
“We did some team bonding stuff and we’re pretty close and I had a couple really good friends on the team, which was always nice,” Strasser said. “It’s a little different because you grew up playing and knowing everybody from forever, but college is different too. You grow really close with them also because that’s your family there and your family is not there.”
One thing about softball Strasser misses from her high school days is hitting. Focusing solely on pitching, Strasser doesn’t get a chance to swing the bat like she once did at W.F. West.
“I loved hitting in high school and I was good at it. That part I’m like, ‘Why don’t you let me hit?’ but it’s also like you need me for pitching and as much as I pitched this year, with my back injury and everything, it still hurts sometimes,” Strasser said. “So it’s saving me from that for pitching which was nice but I do miss it sometimes.”
Looking back on her freshman season as a whole, Strasser felt it went OK and saw some room for improvement.
“I think we peaked a little too early and fell off right at the end right after the postseason games but I think it will be better next year and we’re just doing good,” Strasser said.
Her work paid off in an individual accolade as Strasser was named a unanimous selection to the All-GNAC first-team.
“It was really nice, that was cool,” Stasser said. “One other freshman that got it, she played outfield. It was cool especially because it was unanimous selection too. I was glad that they thought highly enough of me to put me on there.”
This summer, Strasser will continue conditioning and working out while pitching in preparation for fall ball. Strasser has been throwing with some former W.F. West teammates, including Paetynn Lopez and Ashlyn Whalen.
Strasser kept in touch with some of her former teammates and was pleased to see how well the Bearcats did this season after taking third at the State 2A softball tournament.
“I think they did really good. I think that there was some worry they were going to fall off after I left and I was like nope,” Strasser said. “That’s not going to happen because they are just too good. There’s just too much heart on that team to perform less than expected.”
Strasser noted that it isn’t easy to balance school and softball, but it’s been easier after she changed her major from clinical physiology to sports management.
“I was going to do clinical physiology at first, and then I had chemistry classes and then I figured out I hate chemistry,” Strasser said. “It’s really hard so I was like OK, something needs to change because I’m struggling. You find ways to do it and we have study hall that helps and it makes you go and do your work and not slack off in that aspect.”
Over the summer, Strasser hopes to learn a couple new pitches in order to improve her ability to keep opposing hitters’ off balance.
“I mostly threw drop and change and then rise ball. Those are like the main three that (Larabee) throws,” Strasser said. “I think maybe he’s going to try and do more hopefully because I think that would be good, but he mainly focuses on just those three. (I hope to learn a) curveball and screwball at least because it’s a lot harder to guess what pitch is coming at you when there’s five and not two or three.”
There will be two new pitchers joining the Wildcats this fall, and Strasser knows that she will have to continue to work hard in order to see the same or more playing time in her sophomore campaign.
“We had five and then there are two more committed so we’ll have seven next year actually,” Strasser said. “I think so, you can’t let your guard down either. You have to keep working and they’re two really good pitchers coming in also.”
For her sophomore season, Strasser wants the team to improve the team’s record from last season as well as go further into the postseason.
“I want to pick up some speed on my pitching and get at least three super solid pitches,” Strasser said. “(I want to) just win GNACs also and regionals and just have a good sophomore season with the team and myself and live up to people’s expectations.”